Homeless Woman Set on Fire in LA

Police say no motive for the brutal attack

By Mark Russell,  Newser Staff

Posted Dec 28, 2012 9:38 AM CST

(Newser) – Flo Parker, aka Violet, had long been a regular presence on Los Angeles' Van Nuys Boulevard. The small, 67-year-old homeless woman used exact change to buy her regular pack of smokes at a gas station in the morning. She recycled cans rather than beg. She went to Central Lutheran Church for its free lunches on Wednesdays and Thursdays. She was the "sweetest lady on the street," a local tells the AP. And she slept on a bus bench outside the Walgreens each night. But at 1am yesterday, while sleeping on that bench, she was doused with a flammable liquid and set ablaze, reports the Los Angeles Times.

Parker was taken to hospital and is in critical condition. Police arrested Dennis Petillo, 24, on suspicion of attempted murder. "There was no incident or dispute or clear motivation for this horrific attack. He did not know his victim. It defies explanation," said the LAPD deputy chief. "He is not of sound mind.... The motive is mental illness." A witness says Petillo exited the Walgreens carrying what looked like rubbing alcohol. "He just poured it all over the old lady. Then he threw the match on her and started running."

A burned city bus bench seen in the Van Nuys section of Los Angeles yesterday, after police arrested a man for allegedly setting a 67-year-old woman on fire who was sleeping on the bus stop bench.   (AP Photo/Greg Risling)
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